Teen Read Week is officially October 16th through 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you author interviews and profiles and reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us.
Amanda Havard is the debut author of The Survivors, a YA series that gives a new twist to the paranormal genre. During the height of the Salem witch trials, twenty-six children accused of witchcraft are taken into the woods to die. But fourteen of them don’t die. They can’t die. And then they discover their mysterious powers…Fast forward a few hundred years and Sadie, a descendant of the original Survivors, is trying to find her place in the modern, human world. Of course, when you’re strong, fast, telepathic and immortal, it’s hard to fit in. Amanda joins us today to tell us more about this intriguing new series!
Many paranormal romances are written from the point of view of a human protagonist drawn into the supernatural world by their love for an alluring, non-human character. The Survivors focuses instead on the point of view of a non-human character attracted to both the human and paranormal worlds. What prompted this choice?
What a great question. This concept is actually what made me decide to write a paranormal romance series in the first place. I completely understand (and love) the purpose behind the idea of a human being drawn to a non-human. It’s a fantasy we can dream about within all the touches of the reality we’re living.
But I wanted to do something else. I wanted us to think from the side of the paranormal, think from the point of view of someone who is having to strongly evaluate these human world and the non-human world, as it were. I think we, as paranormal/fantasy/supernatural fans, are inherently drawn to the non-human world in our characters. But have we really thought about what it would mean to be caught up in those worlds? Have we thought of all that goes along with it? I wanted to give youâ€”and perhaps selfishly, think asâ€”a character who was having to deal with these questions in a very real, often painful way. We know what draws us to their world, but what would draw them to ours?
Was it hard to write in the voice of a protagonist who is not human, and has led what most of us would consider a very unusual life? What helped you get into the head of a character who is over 100 years old, yet still somewhat naive?
I think I was actually shocked at how easily Sadie’s voice came to me. I’ve always been someone who observed and assessed, someone who took apart the way someone talked to me in my mind, deconstructed weird social norms and wondered about them. This is the place Sadie comes from, a place where the time you’ve spent on this earth means nothing if you haven’t spent that time in the society you wish to be apart of. We have so many unspoken rules, traditions, customs, norms, behaviorsâ€¦ and we take them for granted because we’ve grown up with them. But what if you hadn’t? How naÃ¯ve would you be? And how different is that struggle to fit in than the struggle we’ve all felt at one time or another? These are the questions I had to ask myself to create her, to get inside her head. And all of those years of narrating conversations in my head, breaking apart the way people communicated and the way people think, and of analyzing the things we say and do that are completely learned and not at all innate finally paid off.
I notice that your Twitter profile says you’re a “fashion freak,” and your characters are certainly fashion-forward! Did your sense of style help you when you were first imagining your characters? Which of Sadie’s many outfits is your personal favorite?
Style is a big part of my life, and, as such, plays a big role in the way I imagine people, and even the way I look at people. People’s style tells you a lot about them, from how they envision themselves as an individual versus how they fit into a group, what their priorities are, and very often, how they feel about themselves. How could I overlook this in creating characters? When thinking of visual inspiration for characters, I’d look at Vogue, and runway images. I’d look at the way someone dressed, someone carried themselves, and think, â€œThat look has Mark Winter all over it,â€ or â€œSadie wouldn’t even loosen enough to wear something like that, but Ginny Winter probably has it in her closet.â€ It was hugely helpful. Even now, on my blog, I do a lot of Polyvore looks for my characters for looks that are in and those that don’t make it into the book. If the style of a character helps you envision themâ€”or if you think it might, since it’s obviously not something that’s commonâ€” that’s a cool thing to check out.
And as for a favorite of Sadie’s look, well, I’m not totally sure. I think the J. Mendel dress she wears for Corrina’s rehearsal dinner has a special place in my heart because it was the first serious outfit I dressed her in. It also helped form my perception of her style based on her limits and sometimes lack thereof. For instance, she’s always got those arms coveredâ€”like she would in this dressâ€”but that’s a daring legline. But by picking it for her, it rounded out my vision of her, informing me on a part of her I hadn’t necessarily thought of before.
Another uncommon element of The Survivors was that Sadie, an immortal being, desires to become mortal. She goes on a lengthy quest before the book’s timeline begins to discover how her kind can be killed. What inspired this slightly negative take on immortality? Would you personally choose to be immortal or not?
This decision wasn’t unlike the decision to make Sadie an immortal in the first place. I don’t know if it’s the cynic in meâ€”the realist, I’d sayâ€¦â€” but I find it hard to believe that it would a transition to immortality, or life among them, would go as smoothly or even be as alluring as we see in the human-loves-immortal character trysts. Maybe immortality wouldn’t be awful in an immortal world (though I’m not convinced of even that), but in the mortal world we live in, where all things have a birth-life-death cycle, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a life where you continue to lose while others find an eventual freedom in death. Does this think I mean that if things are tough, we should look on death as a way out? Absolutely not. It just means that if you’re the one who always survives, while all the others die, your life will be filled with an unending cycle of pain, one that will repeat itself infinitely more than it would in someone whose life would have an end. By the time you meet Sadie, she’s sort of realized this. It isn’t that immortals have nothing to fear because they can’t die. No, it’s that they have everything to fear because they have everything to lose and no way to keep from losing it. We forget that I think.
So would I choose to be immortal? How could I, knowing this, having lived in my mind as Sadie, having had to realize that though mortality comes with a pain we can sometimes hardly cope with, immortality would only be worse.
I loved how you included the music that inspired you in your acknowledgements — and even wrote original songs based on the book! Do you have a playlist that readers should listen to while reading The Survivors?
It’s safe to say that this series wouldn’t have been conceived of, much less written and published, without the music that inspired it. And, yes, there is a playlist. Really, what others call a playlist, I’m calling a soundtrack because each song was chosen to signify a specific scene or set of interactions in the book. I listened to hundreds, possibly thousands of songs, while writing this book. But in the end, there was a list of songs that corresponded to scenes in the book directly, and, yeah, you should check it out. You can listen to it all on my website, and the music videos for those songsâ€”as well as the original Survivors songsâ€”are on my YouTube channel under â€œSoundtrack,â€ and of course you can download the whole thing on iTunes.
Sadie has a bit of a love quadrangle with the three attractive men in her life — Cole, Mark and Everett. Tell me, is there any hope for Cole, or my favorite bad boy, Mark Winter? Or should I just give up now? (On a related note, why is Mark’s Facebook picture a donkey? I am flabbergasted.)
Love quadrangle. I like that. Though technically, at least one leg of that quadrilateral has certainly not been defined as anything romantic. Not that it couldn’t beâ€¦ just that it hasn’t.
And as for the question of hope, I suppose I should say this: It’s the first book in a series of five, in what will be a heart-wrenching, twistedly-turning, rollercoaster of a story. Anything can happen. Really. Seriously. Anything.
Not only do your characters have Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts, they have also been interviewed by bloggers! Is there anything Sadie (or Mark) would like share with The Hub?
If I had to guess, they’d both tell you to come and talk to themâ€”they’re always available. But don’t be confused if they answer a question differently than you might imagine it. They’re following the story timeline, so they may be in a different part of the book than you’ve read. But, one day, that means they’ll be further ahead in the story than you are, and I wonder what kind of interesting information you can get out of them then.
And they, like I, would probably like to thanks for the chance to be featured on the Hub! It’s been a real pleasure. Thanks for the thoughtful questions.
Oh, and if you’re in Austin, Texas, come say hi tonight, October 7th, when I’ll be signing at BookPeople! I can’t wait to see you there!
Thanks, Amanda! And, yeah, that Mark Winter/Sadie thing is probably all in my head. Le sigh..
— Maria Kramer is gettin’ her zombie on with Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.